Hi this is Jo from the Wild Bunch with our latest column.
Autumn has come around very quickly this year. Temperatures have dropped significantly and the crowns of deciduous trees in our gardens and parks started to change colour and shed their leaves. This process helps them conserve energy during darker, colder months and protects them from blowing over in windier weather and it’s controlled by the plant hormone auxin. As days get shorter and cooler, the flow of auxin to the leaves slows and levels of another hormone, ethene rise. This signals the cells at the base of the leaf to weaken their cell walls, at the same time as other cells expand to break the connections between the weakened cells. The result is like tearing perforated paper, causing leaves to drop to the ground.
Keeping on top of fallen leaves can be frustrating but collected dead leaves can be very beneficial to your garden. Leaf mulch, or leaf mould, is something you can start creating in the autumn for use the following winter, spring and summer. During the last very dry summer it became apparent to me that mulching is the way forward to keeping your garden hydrated and healthy. Mulching helps maintain soil moisture, and the coverage it provides can suppress weeds. In winter it provides insulation for plants and safe cover for hibernating insects. It can be expensive to buy so it makes sense to use leaves in your garden and make your own environmentally friendly mulch which is easy and fun. Simply collect fallen leaves – this can be done by using a garden rake, or by collecting them using a garden vacuum or leaf blower but avoid any leaves that look diseased. Next you will need to shred your collected material. Most garden vacuums will do that for you, but if you haven’t got a garden vacuum you can use a garden shredder which is available to hire from SHARE Library (www.sharefrome.org). Make sure you shred your leaves as small as you can. This helps microorganisms work and allows water to pass through.
Once all your leaves have been shredded, place them in your flower beds. A layer of 2 to 3 inches is recommended but ensure to stay a couple of inches away from the stems to minimise their contact with rotting leaf material. Use around 4 to 5 inches around trees and shrubs to help protect their bases. From late autumn, use mulch to insulate rose bushes but remember to remove this in spring when the growth cycle begins again.
More next month but in the meantime, join the Wild Bunch to find out what you can do to support our gardens and wild neighbours, visit the Wild Bunch page.